Despite the evident achievement in getting big name acts to perform at the second Java Rockin’ Land festival, the line-up for this year’s version of the nascent juggernaut looks more than a little erratic: a seminal 1990s rock band, a post-Britpop up tempo Welsh band, electronic rock, metal, garage and pop.
Local talent: Bandung-band/Rif performs in Surabaya last week ahead of the Java Rockin’ land music festival, where over 100 local bands and 15 international acts will play over three days, from Oct. 8-10.Antara/M. Risyal Hidayat
It’s hard to know who could handle such an eclectic mix. But yesterday evening’s pre-festival press conference and taster set from British act Arkana answered the doubts with exuberant, joyous, clamouring screams.
By the time I arrive the place is packed to the rafters with other journalists and seemingly more than a few fans. I position myself behind a pillar — the Hard Rock Cafe proving not the most well laid out venue for the occasion. Tattooed and porcupine-hairstyled youths drift nonchalantly about the room, invariably smoking and with an attitude that says “don’t talk to me, I’m working on a new riff… where’s my axe?”
While we wait, the music of the participating acts plays loudly on the large screen at the back of the room. Banners festoon every corner of the ramshackle space. Given the amount of photographers, the sponsors’ outlay will be paying dividends already.
For a press conference, the journalists here seem like a pack of groupies. There is a shimmer of expectation which erupts into spurts of screaming and applause as the participating members appear from behind a banner and take their seats.
If you were in any doubt that this was an important event in the fledgling history of the Indonesian rock festival scene, those doubts would already have abated.
The success of last year’s Java Rockin’ Land was impressive if not for the fact that the only major international act was a one-hit wonder (Mr. Big) nobody has thought much about since its halcyon era of mid 1991.
This year’s line-up is somewhat more substantial. The Stereophonics are a real coup for the organi-zers, perhaps even more so than The Smashing Pumpkins, whose star has waned in the decade or so since their last album, although that they remain one of the iconic bands of the 1990s underlines the magnitude of their being tempted to Jakarta and organizers only just failed to secure Weezer: another seminal 1990s rock band. There is more than a lot to be proud of in this festival.
Upstairs, members of 1990s electro/rock band Arkarna (most well known for the song House on Fire, which appeared on the soundtrack to Batman and Robin) prepare for their set by posing for photos with innumerable young people.
All extremely sweet and charming, if terribly dressed for rock stars, they exude the joy that comes with the adoration of fans. Their good grace is cut short by an ultra efficient manager who whisks them off and down the stairs for their set, which ignites the crowd into a frenzied crackle.
In the past ten to fifteen years, the popularity of music festivals has exploded all over the world.
Literally hundreds of festivals fill the calendar during the summer months in the United Kingdom, Australia and America.
For Asia, the phenomenon is just getting started and seems to be gathering a head of steam. The feel here, though, is different. In the UK, for example, attending a festival is a rite of passage as well as an important part of keeping up with the Joneses: no self respecting Londoner could ever return from their summer holidays without having been to at least one rain drenched music extravaganza.
It is becoming similar in other countries, but for Jakarta, this is a festival the fans will adore for the music, for the presence of its star acts and for the joy, jubilation and sheer pleasure their co-fans contribute to forge a festival of palpable atmosphere and fun.
Given the ramshackle approach to the press conference, there will be inevitable problems (what happens when it rains, for example?), but these fans will resoundingly respond with a loud, smiling, glorious “who cares!”